Being a founder of the Greater Warrenton Chamber of Commerce and its Business Assistance Team which was launched in the middle of the recession in 2009, I have seen many small and struggling businesses. The business owners who survived and thrived understood that they could not do, know and learn everything themselves, at least not in time to keep the ship from sinking.
I work as a team player. This is one of the reasons I remain active in the Chamber of Commerce, not just to grow my own business but to meet other processionals of good quality and character who can assist my clients.
Nearly every small business owner will need the assistance of an accountant, attorney, banker and insurance agent at one time or another. Also, in my view, smart business owners also know that they need to hire a management consultant and a marketing consultant.
Finding and putting together a good team should be one of the first steps taken in starting a new business. For example, some of the first steps you’ll be taking, deciding on the form of your business, for example, will be easier if you already have professionals lined up.
Here’s a quick look at the types of assistance key members of a business team can provide:
Attorney: Let’s get this out of the way first. Hiring an attorney after a business runs into legal problems is like running to the store to buy a fire extinguisher after the house is on fire. Initially, an attorney helps choose the right form of business; makes sure the proper papers are filed; drafts and interprets contracts and leases; helps with establishing a human resource system (a sensitive area of vulnerability) and provides on going legal advice for the operation of the business. Good planning, well-drafted legal agreements and well-documented intellectual property protection helps avoid potentially hundreds and thousands of dollars in litigation expenses.
Accountant: Sets up your books; prepares your taxes; provides you with tax advice related to the operation of your business, such as how to choose the best retirement plan and how to take advantage of tax deductions. A business accountant helps to decide on the best choice of business entity. In fact, this may be the first person to be seen. From my perspective, all limited entities, especially in Virginia, protect a business owner’s personal assets from business liabilities provided the entity is fully organized and best practices are followed. An accountant however, provides the best perspective on strategies for growth and development and which entity is the best for the type of business chosen and the future plans.
Banker: Helps you get financing; helps you establish credit card accounts; works, in many cases, as your silent partner, providing you with business operation advice. A good local business banker is also an excellent gateway into the business community for he or she knows many of the key players and centers of influence.
Insurance Agent: Evaluates your insurance needs; provides you with advice on which types of coverage you need. A good insurance agent can also assess all businesses vulnerabilities and possible liabilities depending on the line of business chosen. Also, as I state that a firm legal foundation reduces the chances of unwanted lawsuits, I have unfortunately witnessed too many frivolous suits being brought. Even though the business owner is likely to have the frivolous suit dismissed, it costs precious money just to get to that point. A comprehensive insurance policy would pay for those legal defense costs.
Management Consultant: Provides basic business operation advice; provides pricing and inventory advice; provides sales and advertising advice. A management consultant should also review the business plan. A business without a business plan is like a boat without a rudder. A business plan will also be critical if investments or loans are needed.
Marketing Consultant: Finally, but not least, if you have a good product or service, how are you going to sell it? In these days of changing demographics and the ever expanding and changing social media landscape being seen and up to date is critical.
With a good business team, the chances of success are greatly enhanced.